Too often, we forget to pause and think about the real reason for the holidays we celebrate as a nation. Memorial Day is not just a three-day weekend to kick-off summer vacations with cook-outs and lake trips—it’s a somber remembrance of every American who died fighting for our freedom and independence. Labor Day is not just a three day weekend at the end of the summer. It salutes the men and women who literally built this country and keep it going every single day.
Soon we will be celebrating July Fourth and I hope each of us will stop to think about what it is we’re celebrating. It’s not just an excuse for cook-outs and fireworks. It marks the beginning of a historic quest for something truly bold—a new system of government that derived its power through the consent of its citizens.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence which stated:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Remember that in the 18th century, your lot in life was nearly universally pre-determined by the family you were born into. And in England, like so many other countries, only those born into royalty could ever lead a nation—and the people of that nation existed to serve that monarchy—something the Founding Fathers of this country rejected.
Kings and queens believed their power was derived from God. In some countries, the rulers proclaimed themselves to actually be gods. With the belief that they were empowered by God, this meant monarchs could treat their subjects however they wished, however cruel and unjust that may have been. With the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers rejected that belief, stating that in order to secure those fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. The document then continued to outline the grievances the colonies had against the King of England such as taxation without representation, housing soldiers in private homes and depriving citizens of trial by jury. The people of the colonies were not free in their own homes, in their own land.
The Founding Fathers and tens of thousands of Patriots knew that freedom was not free, but they were prepared to pay that price.
By even discussing this document, much less signing it, the Founding Fathers risked their very lives. Treason against the King was punishable by death. But it was a risk they were willing to take in order to become a free nation. It was a risk their fellow Americans were willing to take as well.
The historical accounts vary, but it is believed that up to 7,000 colonists were killed in action during the American Revolution. Thousands more died of starvation or disease. But because of their sacrifices, ultimately the Patriots prevailed. As boldly proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, America was a free nation, although her sons and daughters would be called upon again and again throughout our history to continue to safeguard that freedom.
So this holiday, let’s all stop and remember that the fireworks, the parades, the patriotic music are all about the birth of a new and free country. It truly is a reason to celebrate. Happy Fourth of July, America!
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.